#becauseofCJ: Reflection from Joe '19

Young alumni are continuing to share how they are succeeding after high school in our #becauseofCJ series. Through your gift to the Annual Fund, you make this happen. When you do, more Eagles can soar! Read Joe’s story below, and consider making your gift today.

Dear CJ Community,

My name is Joe Allaire and I am a graduate of the class of 2019. While at CJ, I ran cross country, swam on the swim team, and played tennis. I was always involved in campus ministry including FLIGHT and Marianist LIFE. Over my time at CJ, I had many chances to develop myself spiritually, mentally, and socially. Today, I am sharing how my transformation socially at CJ has been a huge influence on my life and hopefully influenced others.

When I entered my freshman year, I was pretty reserved. I did not talk much, had a couple people I would say, “Hi,” to, but no real friends. I was just scared to go out of my comfort zone to talk with other people. Once I joined the swim team, I had the opportunity to meet some of the people I would become best of friends with. Once I met them, I was slowly able to start branching out and being more extroverted. Every year since then, I have noticed myself becoming more and more extroverted until sometimes I can be the most talkative person in the room. Something I would never imagine freshman year.

Now, what does this have to do with anything? 

I learned that more than 16 million men and women served in the U.S. Armed Forces during the Second World War between 1941-1945 and today, there are roughly only 400,000 service men and women from that war left. I have been really blessed to get to know quite a few of them.

My interest in World War II started soon after I learned that my Grandpa served in that war. Sadly, I was never able to hear anything about his service before he passed away. Nobody in our family really got to hear about where he was or how he served during those years. Having that experience has been an inspiration to hear and record as many stories as I can from who is rightfully called, “The Greatest Generation.” They are called that because they grew up in the Great Depression, were asked to fight and defeated the world powers of German Nazism and Japanese Imperialism, came back, went to college on the GI Bill, started families and then built the country back from the ground up.  Over the last year, I have been blessed to have the opportunity to sit down with and meet at least 15 different World War II vets. What I never expected was that some of these elderly men would become some of my best friends.

That’s right, every weekend I get up and head on over to the Germantown Veterans Memorial Museum to sit at the front desk and hang around with my buddies in their 90’s (I do a little work around the place every once and while)! When they all get together and start talking about the war, it’s like they are 18 again with their arguing and joking around with each other. It is so good for them to have others to talk to about their experiences. The community at the museum is a source of strength and consistency in their lives.

The lessons I have learned through the interviews and general conversations have been so valuable in my understanding of them and my own life.

The first lesson that World War II veterans constantly remind me of is humility. They will not talk about what they did in the war unless you ask them. Many live in small homes and have minimalist possessions.  They focus on you whenever you interact with them. I am always blown away by how they always want to know about how my wisdom teeth came out or when my next tennis match is! Meeting them has been a great reminder to be humble.

The second lesson is that this generation is going to be gone very soon. The youngest World War II veterans are in their 90’s. Many of them are in nursing homes or hospice care. At one of our veteran “get together” brunches, I had a man sit me down, look me straight in the eye and say, “You know son, our generation is taking all the hell we saw to the grave with us and once we are gone, what we witnessed will go with us.” That made me stop and think about what I can do to keep those memories alive, because if we forget our history we are bound to repeat it. I figured I could just talk to one veteran at a time and tell others their stories. I had the chance to speak with a Holocaust Survivor while on my CJ Senior Trip who had the same message for me, she said, “Don’t you forget about us.” I hope that the little I am doing will help someone someday understand what it was like.

The last lesson I learned is that whatever you do, your service can be appreciated. As a kid, I always thought that all veterans must have had a gun and gone to war on the frontlines. Shortly after interviewing a couple people did I realize that there were so many different jobs and roles that these men could have served in to help the war effort. Their service, although less combat and shooting, still remains valiant in that they were called out of their ordinary life to do something extraordinary — and while doing their job, they literally saved the world. Now that I understand that, it makes it much easier to talk to them about their experience.

If it were not for my development at CJ to branch out and be able to talk with others, I would never have had the courage to call up complete strangers and interview them. But now, I’ve been able to interview men who liberated concentration camps in Nazi Germany, stormed beaches in the Pacific, survived Pearl Harbor, and saved countless lives with medicine on the battlefield — all because of the transformation that I undertook while at CJ.

Last month, I moved into Bishop Simon Brute College Seminary in Indianapolis and am living with around 40 other men who are discerning a vocation to the priesthood. I am also attending Marian University which is right down the street. I am super excited to start this year and have a lot of thanks to Chaminade Julienne for the formation they provided for me within a big time of change in my life.

The last thing I will say is that if you have a living relative who is a World War II veteran, I cannot recommend enough coming down to the Germantown Veterans Memorial Museum (123 South Main Street, Germantown, OH 45327  |  Open Saturdays 12-4 p.m. and Sundays 2-6 p.m.). There are more than 4,000 veterans’ stories on display from every conflict in American History. Everyone there would absolutely love to meet you and let you hear their stories if they wish to share.

The actual last thing is to never forget to be grateful. Thank any veteran when you see them and especially if you see a little old man in a nursing home with a ball cap on.

It really makes their day.

Joe Allaire, Class of 2019

Posted September 11, 2019